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Surrey school gyms have some bounce again as basketball season starts

RCMP Classic tournament organizer laments ‘disappointing and sad’ 2020-21 season, which was cancelled
The Surrey RCMP Classic basketball tournament involves close to 700 student-athletes in what has become a city championship, and certainly a barometer for future success in playoffs, held a few weeks later. (File photo: Tom Zillich)

In high school gyms across Surrey, basketballs bounce again in anticipation of a return to games involving local student-athletes.

That dribbling sound excites people like Rick Inrig, a lead organizer of the long-established Surrey RCMP Classic tournament, for boys teams in the city.

The last Classic was held in January 2020, a few months before COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic.

Cancelled was the 30th tournament, set for the early days of 2021, and now planning is in high gear for the next one, Jan. 9-15, 2022.

“Last year was the first time in 30 years the tournament was not held,” Inrig confirmed. “This will be the 30th now again, so we’ll take our second run at 30.”

• OUR VIEW, from 2020: Surrey RCMP Basketball Classic is a keeper.

Likewise, teams of girls are now preparing for the Surrey Fire Fighters’ Goodwill tournament, the 20th edition of which will be played Jan. 4-8. Look for updates on

Among Canada’s largest high school basketball tournaments, the Surrey RCMP Classic involves close to 700 teen athletes in what has become a city championship, and certainly a barometer for future success in playoffs, held a few weeks later.

Inrig, who helped launch the week-long Classic three decades ago, is delighted to see high school-aged players return to basketball courts in the region.

“Last year, these athletes weren’t able to compete in high school sports like they should have. A lot of kids lost their last year out, which is a fairly sizable loss for a lot of kids entering college.

“It’s exciting to get it back going, no question,” Inrig added. “For a lot of the players, they’ve looked forward to playing high school basketball for a long time, and when they don’t get to play, that’s very disappointing and sad – especially for those in their senior year last year.”

• RELATED STORY, from 2020: Classic memories: All-stars recall good times at Surrey RCMP tourney.

Scholarships are a big part of the RCMP Classic, and those will continue at the conclusion of the 2022 tourney.

Last time around, during an all-cat fight in the 2020 Classic championship game, Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers scratched their way to a 67-64 win over Tamanawis Wildcats in the senior division final, in a packed gym at Enver Creek Secondary. It was the Cloverdale school’s first ever senior-division win at the Classic, after earning eight top-five finishes since the tournament began in 1992.

The Classic format will change for 2022, Inrig noted.

“We’ll have 24 teams in the junior tournament this year, instead of 20,” he said. “The senior tournament will continue to have 24 teams, and I don’t think we should ever go beyond that, because it’s almost impossible to manage otherwise, with that many games.

“The other thing with that is making sure we have enough referees for all those games, close to 100 of them, because that’s a hugely busy week for all the referees (in the region) as well, with other tournaments and games going on.”

• RELATED STORY, from 2019: Surrey RCMP Classic brings together public, private schools.

Only Surrey teams are invited to play in the tournament, but not all end up on the schedule.

“There may be a few schools who want in but we can’t accommodate them,” Inrig explained. “There’s no real measure of it, but with the new schools trying to get in, the schools that have been in longer will have priority, and with the other ones, if we have openings we’ll get them in.

“For example,” he added, “Grandview Heights are in for the first time, in the junior tournament, but getting them in the senior tournament might be tough in the future, because we just don’t know if we’ll have enough room. We can only do what we can do, but so far it’s worked out pretty well.”

• RELATED STORY, from 2018: Another Classic in the books for Surrey basketball’s dynamic duo.

This year, one of the challenges is properly ranking teams heading into another Classic, because none have recently played any games.

Pandemic-triggered protocols will also pose a challenge, Inrig noted.

“It’s been my question all along this fall, whether this tournament will be able to get off the ground or not,” he said. “It’s kind of frustrating to not know exactly what’s going to happen, but right now it’s a go, and that’s the only way we can treat it.

“We have questions about whether we can play in front of a full house (of spectators), or if the games be at 50 per cent of capacity. Right now I’m guessing it will be at 50 per cent, and that will hurt because it just won’t be the same atmosphere without a gym full of people.”

Looking ahead, with Surrey RCMP being phased out in favour of a city-operated police force in Surrey, the tournament’s title sponsorship is in question.

“I won’t say very much about that, because we haven’t met to discuss what will happen in the future,” Inrig said. “A lot of people assume it will just be called the Surrey Police Tournament, with the new police force represented, but I’m not sure. This tournament came out of an effort that involved police coming into the schools to work with kids, and we would have to look very carefully at what happens. It’s something we’ll have to deal with after this year’s tournament is over, where that goes.”

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Tom Zillich

About the Author: Tom Zillich

I cover entertainment, sports and news stories for the Surrey Now-Leader, where I've worked for more than half of my 30-plus years in the newspaper business.
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